The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Comparing 53-Man Roster Projections: Is Romo on the Bubble?

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We sincerely hope you immediately realized that title was a joke.  If you are one of the coo coo fans who thinks Tony Romo needs to go, then you probably don’t have the requisite background to appreciate a debate concerning rookie free agent Scott Sicko’s chance of making the 53-man roster.

Alrighty. . . now that we have effectively alienated half of our fan base (hey, it’s what we do), we wanted to point you in the direction of Dallas Morning News’ reporter Todd Archer’s 53-man roster projection.  As you may recall, we predicted the final roster cuts about a week ago.  Archer envisions the Cowboys taking quite a different approach.

First for the similarities:

  • Quarterback, running back, and the specialty positions are all fairly easy to predict (although K David Buehler may eventually have company), and are thus identical between us.
  • Archer joins us as one of the few to believe six wide receivers (Austin, Williams, Bryant, Crayton, Ogletree, and Hurd) will all make the final roster.

Surprisingly, the similarities stop there.  Here is what we have different:

  • Archer envisions FB Deon Anderson being released and the Cowboys not even bothering to keep a fullback.  He believes undrafted rookie TE Scott Sicko will be the main beneficiary of that move.

We disagree with this prediction because the fullback position is actually quite vital to the Cowboys’ offense.  Don’t forget that, according to a study we published just after the 2009 season concluded, Anderson was far superior in run blocking than TE John Phillips (to the tune of nearly two yards-per-carry more with Anderson in the game despite a 3:1 run-to-pass ratio during those plays).  The difference in the efficiency of the passing game with each player in the lineup was negligible.  See the chart to the left for more details.

  • Archer, like us, is projecting the Cowboys to retain nine offensive linemen.  We actually only have one player different on the entire line:  he has last year’s practice squad guard Travis Bright substituted for Cory Procter.

We actually believe Bright is a superior player and even had him in our initial roster projection, but we all know the coaching staff values Procter’s versatility to play both center and guard.  For this reason, we see the band “Free Reign” sticking together for another season.

  • We have one extra defensive lineman (Marcus Dixon) making the cut.

We both agree on rookie seventh-rounder Sean Lissemore having a difficult time making the squad (although we are rooting for him).  The issue is that the Cowboys may not have a true backup nose tackle behind Ratliff if Junior Siavii is let go.  If Lissemore can prove he is up for the task of playing inside, he could take Siavii’s spot.

Archer is projecting just six defensive linemen to make the final roster.  However, Coach Phillips loves to rotate defensive linemen, so we believe there could easily be a seventh defensive line spot available.  We see it going to Marcus Dixon, a player is improving vastly from year to year.  We really don’t think there is any way the Cowboys will be able to keep him off of the roster this season.  For more on Dixon, check out our interview with the up-and-coming defensive end.

  • We believe the Cowboys will keep a fifth outside linebacker (Curtis Johnson).

The Cowboys are in the business of retaining the best football players possible.  Johnson is a highly underrated pass-rusher who could act as a security blanket for the Cowboys.  Without him, the team would be relying on inexperienced second-year players Victor Butler and Brandon Williams to be the primary backups to Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.  We wrote about this scenario in a recent Mailbag.

  • Archer believes the Cowboys will keep the standard five cornerbacks, while we believe it could be just four.

    The versatility of AOA could allow the Cowboys to keep just four true CBs.

Only four cornerbacks in this day and age?  The reason behind our prediction is that the Cowboys will have two safeties on the roster (Alan Ball and rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) who will be able to play cornerback.  In a way, the team will really have six cornerbacks on the roster even if they only list four at the position.

Archer also believes the Cowboys will keep two rookies: Jamar Wall and undrafted free agent Bryan McCann.  McCann is actually a player we predicted the Cowboys might select late in the draft.

We believe the versatility of the Cowboys’ safeties means both players could have trouble making the squad.  Wall struggled badly in mini-camp and McCann will have an uphill battle as an undrafted player and with Wall already ahead of him.

The reason we have neither Wall nor McCann making the final roster is due to a player many Cowboys fans probably don’t even know (but one the coaches love)–Cletis Gordon.  Now, Gordon’s opportunity to make the final cut may have shrunk once the Cowboys upgraded the return spots with Dez Bryant and AOA (Gordon was–and still is–a sleeper to return kickoffs), but we think the coaches will ultimately deem Gordon as the fourth-best cornerback on the roster.

  • Archer, like us, is projecting five safeties to make the roster.  He believes the fifth guy will be undrafted free agent Barry Church, however, while we see the Cowboys signing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent O.J. Atogwe.

We are going out on a limb to project a player on another team who is not even currently an unrestricted free agent (he becomes one on June 1) to come to Dallas, but we don’t see how the Cowboys can be comfortable with either Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin starting at free safety.

Ball played adequately last season (we gave him a ‘C+’ overall grade), but the ‘Boys don’t need just ‘adequate’ play from their free safety anymore.  Ken Hamlin was released because he lacked the ability to make big plays.  Atogwe is a ball-hawk (15 interceptions in the last three seasons for a St. Louis defense that was attacked on the ground more than through the air) who would provide the Cowboys with what they currently lack in the back of the secondary.

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11 Responses to Comparing 53-Man Roster Projections: Is Romo on the Bubble?

  1. john coleman says:

    What’s with the man on Procter and Johnson? The staff seems to be in love with certain players. Procter despite his versatility was simply terrible, when he played. He was completely manhandled and they can’t hide him at center. His time has come. Holland or Bright should be able to do the job. Johnson is a mystery to me. What has he done, period? I guess Polian targeted him and that makes him good. Tell me why he is worthy to eat up a spot. I know depth, but has he been on the field yet? Gordon is one of Wade’s from San Diego I believe, and may be deserving. The problem is, if we keep him, will McCann clear waivers. With his speed and skills, I doubt it. Future star gone to keep a 4th yr reserve. As you pointed out we have Ball and Ansah, who are CB/S. We could use McCann as a gunner/return man, and make sure he stays in Dallas. Now to the Dline. If Dixon is ready to step up, cut a DE, or Siavii, or both. If Lissemore can’t hack it, spell Rat with Olshansky. One final shot. It is time for Hurd and Crayton to go. I like them both, but they are potential Problems in the clubhouse. Neither are irreplaceable either. We are talking 5th and 7th yr guys, right. Bring on the youth movement.

  2. john coleman says:

    Oops! That’s, What’s with the man crush.

  3. I don’t personally like Procter either, but who plays center if he gets cut and Gurode gets hurt?

    Johnson has the potential to be a dynamic pass-rusher. With such inexperience behind the starters, I see him making the team.

    The problem with cutting Siavii is the lack of a true nose tackle. Sure, Olshansky might be okay there, but who knows? I personally would rather see Lissemore win the job inside.

  4. Jared says:

    I think Siavii is good because of his big body, but i see them keeping Lissemore because he’s similar to Ratliff.

    In the Cowboys defensive scheme, they like the d-linemen to get up field. They’re not holding ground like a Parcells 3-4. They’re attacking, shooting gaps, and getting penetration.

    I think Siavii was kept because, if nothing else, he clogs up the middle if he’s not getting penetration. Plus, if Lissemore is learning both the end and tackle positions (like he said in his interview), they can rotate him in different positions making him even more valuable.

    Siavii was on the bubble last year, and i don’t think he sticks this time around. I also don’t see Wall sticking around. I know we haven’t had a lot of time to evaluate him, but he was getting burned in camp. It reminded me of Mike Mickens from last year.

  5. Jared says:

    Also, i think Sicko goes on practice squad this year (if no one picks him up). Phillips showed he’s capable last year, and Bennett and Witten are locks.

    I’d agree with the 4-tight ends and no FB’s if i didn’t think Deon Anderson was coming back. I think our offense (and this is just the eye test) runs so much more effectively when our RB has a FB to hide behind. But I’m sure part of Deon’s impact this year will hinge on whether or not he’s suspended for any portion of the year. Does anyone know if he’ll get suspended?

  6. You could definitely be right about Siavii leaving. We were so close to projecting him to not make the final roster–he is actually our 53rd player. I think the point you bring up about his body type is why he will stay.

    You are definitely right about the effectiveness of the offense with a FB. Have you seen our study on it? The first chart in this article has the main stats from that piece. Interesting you were able to pick up on the effectiveness without knowing the stats—good eye!

  7. Jared says:

    You know… i won’t lie. I caught you guys mentioning that above, and it reminded me of how i felt about a FB in our offense. But i’ll definitely check out the stats that your site has provided. Either way, fantastic disussion.

    I have to say, i’m new to the site (came across it a couple of days ago) and i’m truly impressed. A lot of websites are getting very TMZ-ish, but your site seems refreshingly more about the game itself. This site will become my daily Cowboys fix for sure.

  8. Jared,
    Thanks for reading. Glad you like our stuff. If you have any suggestions for future studies/film study/articles you’d like us to complete, don’t hesitate to shoot us an e-mail in the contact area above.

  9. Starred-For-Life says:

    Love your website. I think that the WR position might shake out differently. I think that Roy Williams might not make it onto the final roster (actually, I’m hoping). I also wouldn’t be surprised if Crayton got the trade he wants. I could see Crayton for Atogwe.
    If that happens, then I’d love to see Austin and Dez as our starters (depending on how Dez progresses). WIth Ogletree as the third with Hurd as the back up, and speedy journeyman Titus Ryan filling out the fifth spot. (keeping Manuel Johnson and Jesse Holley on the practice squad).

  10. Thanks for reading. Crayton may or may not get traded, but I don’t think it is likely since he wasn’t dealt during the draft. The other thing is Atogwe is a restricted free agent who becomes unrestricted on June 1. There isn’t any need to trade for him…the Cowboys could just sign him now (the Rams can match any offer until June 1). Thus, Dallas will wait until June 1 to sign him if they are interested.

    An important position for WR is actually kicker. I think six WR will make the roster, but that will be nearly impossible if the Cowboys need to keep two kickers again. In that scenario, your prediction of five will probably be correct.

  11. Pingback: Cowboys Mailbag: 5/8/10 (Alex Barron, OJ Atogwe, Jammal Brown) | Dallas Cowboys Times

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